Cosina CSM


Cosina is not a well-known trademark among camera manufacturers, at least I have never heard of it before I got this camera. The fact is, this is an existing company which has produced over its history many truly nice cameras under their own name and surprisingly for many mainstream manufacturers like Rollei, Canon, Nikon, Yashica, Olympus, Epson etc.

They are manufacturing the Zeiss Ikon camera bodies and many Leica mount Zeiss lenses today. Also, Cosina is the owner of the brand and the company behind Voigtländer which represents a high standard of quality cameras and lenses indeed. All in all the name Cosina might not ring a bell, but it is almost 100% that they have built one of your favorites and they know how to design and build solid photographic tools by tradition.

Technical details


  • Produced 1978 (?)
  • Film type 135 (35mm)
  • Weight 540g (without lens)
  • Dimensions  136.5 (w) x 83.2 (h) x51 (d)
  • Standard Lens Cosinon 55mm f/2.1
  • Lens mount M42 screw mount
  • Shutter cloth curtain (traveling horizontally), electronically controlled
  • Shutter speeds 4s, 2s, 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, 1/15, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/250s, 1/500s,1/100s, M, B
  • Sync speed 1/60
  • Viewfinder SLR w/coated window, micro-raster ring with split image aid
  • Exposure meter stop-down CdS TTL w/3 led lights, activated by the half-pressed shutter
  • Batteries   2x SR/LR44 or similar (AG13, A76)
  • Self-timer
  • Hot shoe, PC sync connection
  • Optional auto-exposure motor

This camera is very small and light especially with the kit lens. Not as small as the Olympus OM, but close to it (540g vs 510g). This is one of the main reasons I own one.

The body is well built, but it is plastic at the top plate and definitely not as solid as a professional camera. In fact, this is all right for me because I use it for amateur purposes with great care. This is a really cheap camera and I suppose it was never a prestige product.

The shutter is controlled electronically, but it is working without batteries with the shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The light-meter is center weighted, using 3 little LEDs in the viewfinder for readout and I have no complains so far.

The batteries are small, cheap and lasting for years (for me) and as I said you are not completely left on the side of the road if they ran out of power. The camera will work on a level (no metering, no self-timer, only 1 shutter speed).

Crazy accessory

The craziest thing about this camera is that it had an external auto exposure unit. It had to be mounted into the accessory shoe and wire it to the camera with some cables and plugs. It contained a motor which turned the shutter speed dial according to the values came from the light meter. Thus it featured aperture priority auto mode. Because the lens was not coupled with this device it had to be stopped down for metering.

It sounds very awkward to me, but it worked. I haven’t got this module but thanks to Jake Howe who was kind enough to allow me to use his photo, I can finally show the camera with the full-featured auto exposure unit.

Cosina CSM with auto shutter mechanism by Jake Howe

My Cosina CSM

This is really small indeed

Nowadays everybody is obsessed by the small size great capabilities cameras (thinking of the mirror-less madness) and it was not really different at any point of the time. Miniaturization was always a trend.

People from the country of the rising sun has created many very compact, yet capable SLR legends mainly in the 70s like the Olympus OM series. Actually these cameras are not much bigger than some mirror-less digital camera of the modern era, even though they use “full frame” size film and having a full mirror mechanism and usually, a huge and bright viewfinder especially compare to entry-level DSLRs.

As I love the design and style of these film cameras, I would rather get excited by a conventional mirror-based DSLR with a “full frame” sensor, but in a compact body than anything else.

I know there are technical issues and probably it would be damn expensive, yet I hope someone will eventually come up with such a device.

If it was possible to squeeze the mirror, prism and in addition a roll of film into such a small camera, it seems unreasonable to not being able to do it with a digital sensor just like Leica did with the M9.

How did I get it

Back to my story, I always wanted a compact size SLR with a nice viewfinder and with an M42 screw lens-mount.

I have many nice M42 lenses and it is always good to have a lighter alternative to the serious workhorse for casual shooting. But I had no idea which camera would be the best. Until one day, I have found a little shop of an old camera repairman in a small village, where among many cool classics I have seen a camera called Porst Compact-reflex. As I took it from the shelf and looked through the viewfinder I knew it was an exact match to my requirements.

I have found it a bit too expensive (at least according to my possibilities at the time, as I was a student) so I did not buy it.

After some research, I have figured out, that it was actually a COSINA CSM branded as Porst (a German photographic equipment distributor and retailer company). The next day I have purchased an instance on e-bay for a little less money and with an extra ever-ready-case.

The truth is, I could have gone for the PROST as my camera had some mechanical troubles and the repairing dismissed the price difference eventually.

Since then I had many great times with this little Cosina and it is certain that I will load some film into it time to time.

The way it looks

I have to say, it is not an easy task to take a good photo of such a black object with white and shiny chrome parts.

This setup includes a window (key light), a cheap lantern from Ikea with an economical light-bulb (fill-light and color) and a sheet of black paper (background). Oh, and I tried to use a silver reflector which was used in a windshield of the car against overheating issues in its previous life. But this reflector does not work very well.

The button below the self-timer is used to re-open the aperture blades after you stopped down the lens to meter. It could be needed when you change your mind and need to re-focus or frame, so the viewfinder brights up again.

The two plugs on the other side are for the optional auto-exposure unit.

You can lock the shutter release button. This is great to prevent accidental shoots and mark that you have actually cocked the camera, on the other hand, it can be a problem when you can’t fire it in the big moment…


Film advance mechanism

When I have received the package form the UK, I had to realize that the film advance mechanism was not quite working. I got it fixed quickly and I received the instruction I need to advance the film with care. I do and I had no problems with it during the last couple of years.


The light-seals needed to be replaced as it is normal for a camera this age. It has to be said however that even without this fix there were no issues of light-leaks.


  • Small and light
  • M42 mount (huge variety of cheap high-quality lenses)
  • Works without batteries
  • Nice viewfinder with the effective focusing aid
  • Extremely cheap


  • Bit plastic (but still feels right)
  • It needs batteries
  • No mirror lookup (it is not a pro camera though)


The Cosina CSM or it’s siblings can be a good choice to anyone who is looking for a compact film SLR with manual focus and having nice M42 mount lenses. It is cheap, it is easy to focus with and won’t break your neck carrying around all times.


Sample Shots

It has been over repeated that the lens and the film are much more important factors than the camera body itself, but this is now a tradition to post some shots taken with the reviewed camera (3rd post already).

You can find some shoots with the unique f2.1 kit lens, which might be interesting. Personally, I think this is a nice optics in a very compact package. My other 50mm lenses are much bigger.

Light bulbs showcase, Cosina CSM, Pancolar 80mm f/1.8, Fuji superia, Cannoscan 9900F
Bike, (night-street shoot), Cosina CSM, Cosinon 55mm f2.1, Fuji superia, Cannosacan 9900F
Rent a bike, Cosina CSM, Cosinon 55mm, Fuji superia, Cannoscan 9900F
Nico (Girona, Catalonia), Cosina CSM, CZJ Pancolar 80mm, Fuji superia, Cannoscan 9900F


The Kiev-4 -according to my opinion- is an extremely outstanding camera. It has a fascinating history, an extraordinary construction, a very attractive outfit and on top of all these, it is still a very capable performer if you don’t mind to shoot in full manual.


  • Produced 1947-1987 Arsenal, Kiev, Ukraine reference
  • Film type 135 (35mm)
  • Picture size 24 x 36mm
  • Weight 27.2oz (771.1g) with Jupiter-8 (“white”)
  • Lens Jupiter-8 (Arsenal copy of Zeiss Sonnar) 50mm 1:2.0
  • Focal range .9m to infinity
  • Shutter metal curtain (traveling vertically)
  • Shutter speeds 1-1/25s, 1/50s, 1/100s, 1/250s, 1/500s, 1/1250s + B
  • Viewfinder coupled rangefinder
  • Exposure meter uncoupled selenium cell
  • Self-timer
  • Accessory shoe, PC sync connection


As I have already mentioned this camera has a very interesting history which you’ve probably heard of. I am not the biggest expert of this story, therefore I don’t even try to reveal every twists and detail, but I do try to make a good summary of the research I have done.

Surprisingly it is more a German camera than a Soviet, but most importantly it is not a plagiarism of the Contax but it is a legal replica. But how it is possible?

After World War II. the Soviets acquired the Zeiss Contax II and III from Germany as part of war reparations. They got everything, machines, technologies, spare parts, and key personnel as well. That is why the first Kievs have original Contax parts and eventually, most of these cameras were made on the very same machines.

After some pilot production series, the production lines were set up in Kiev, Ukraine in the Arsenal factory. Even though the production was based on local workers, the technical coordination was done by a small group of German professionals, most notably Wolfgang Hahn.

Despite the initial lack of trained personnel, the fact that the entire production line was moved and the high pressure to produce cameras in very big quantities, the Kiev is a very well built camera (The design itself is very fault tolerant). It is in fact much closer to the original Contax in quality than any other Soviet cameras especially early models were very high quality.

It has to be said that there were significant drops in quality as the camera was simplified in the sake of productivity and as the members of the original crew went retired. Therefore if you intend to buy a Kiev camera, the older is the better (before 1970 if possible).

All in all the original design from the 1930’s is so rigid that despite the circumstances the Kiev cameras was based on it during many decades until 1987.

If you want to read more about the history with way more details, I can recommend to check out this site.

My Kiev-4

My Kiev-4 is made in 1965 and sold (first) in 1966 in Budapest for 2400 HUF – 500 HUF discount (for unknown reason) which was a ridiculously high price at the time (I will figure out how to convert it to today’s values).   Hungary was a  part of the Eastern block and there was only 1 company which sold photographic equipment in the country called Ofotért. The funny part is, I have got a catalog of this company from 1979 and this camera was still listed for 2140 HUF.

The warranty was 1 year and the camera is still working! I have the original box, invoice, warranty, lens caps, ever-ready case and the camera itself with a Jupiter-8M lens. The M stands for the feature that the aperture values click as you change them (quite advanced technology).

How did I get it

I always wanted a usable and good looking rangefinder. I usually don’t demand much in terms of usability as I am a camera addict, so what I really wanted can be summarized as accurate shutter speeds, interchangeable lenses and a viewfinder which is combined with the rangefinder and bright/big enough to let me enjoy the rangefinder characteristics.  My other concern was of course price because a Leica or even an original Contax is way out of my scope.

I did not know too much about the Kiev until one day I have found one in a very good shape (almost mint condition) on a Hungarian auction site, similar to eBay. The camera was listed with the excellent Zeiss Sonar copy Jupiter-8M lens, the original box, and documents including the original warranty, which is, of course, had expired way before I was even born. It was so attractive that I couldn’t resist. After a few hours of research, I decided to buy it and I haven’t regretted my decision so far.  The whole package cost me 14.000 HUF. If there was no inflation some could think the camera actually gained some value, but in fact, it is now below 50€ at the time of writing and I think it is extremely low for such a beauty.

The way it looks

Personal experience


It has a metal vertical traveling shutter. Both vertical and metal are rare if not nonexistent at this era of FSU (Former Soviet Union) cameras. With the vertical movement, the shutter needs to travel a shorter distance as the frame is (24 x 36mm) and thus higher shutter speeds are available. 1/1250 of a second is indeed a short amount of time, and my camera is still able to produce it. The metal part doesn’t make much difference, however, it will certainly not tear or puncture easily compare to a canvas material.

It is worth to note, that you have to advance the film before changing shutter speed because you might cause some trouble and your settings could be inaccurate. If you want to know why to visit this site.

In my experience, the shutter is very quiet, maybe not as quiet as a Leica as some would claim. But it is quite enough to be able to take street shots in a very discrete way.

Viewfinder and focusing

The viewfinder fits the view of the standard 50mm lens and it is large and bright compare to my other FSU rangefinders  (the collection is not complete though). It is true that it could be brighter and it has some greenish color casting. I think it is probably because it is used to increase the contrast between the small internal and the bigger external frame of the viewfinder to aid focusing. It is still very usable, but I could wish brighter among dim conditions.

It is combined with the rangefinder,  you can use the same window to compose and make your subject sharp. If you want to read more about how the rangefinder device works, visit this site in general, and this site specifically to Kiev-4.

Personally, I think the viewfinder is very usable for a camera this old. All of my shoots so far were spot on. This is way better than my average focusing results with manual SLRs without a Fresnel type split screen.

The focusing is especially accurate because the two windows of the rangefinder have an unusually big distance between each other. This and the small focusing wheel on the body makes focusing extremely precise.

As a downside, it is very easy to hold a camera in a way that one of the rangefinder windows are covered by hand thus compromise it. Therefore the proper holding is a bit aardvark and called the “Contaxt hold”.

Keep your index finger on the shutter release, your middle finger on the focussing wheel and the other two below the RF window and you’ll be fine! (Tobi’s camera page)

This is something that you get used to it or you will hate this camera forever. For me, it is not a big price to pay for the accurate focusing at all.


This version of the camera has a built-in selenium cell meter at the top plate while the Kiev-4A is the same camera but without the meter. I think the no-meter version is more stylish and in addition, these light-meters are generally inaccurate nowadays. It is still working (no battery needed), but it is not reliable plus the difference is according to a non-linear function, thus it cannot be easily corrected. Making it worst the film-speed scale is GOST instead of ISO or DIN. This is not a big issue if you carry a convertion table or you stick to one film speed only, but inconvenient for sure.

That is why I have to use an external light-meter or a digital camera to measure the light. I know it sounds tricky, but most of my cameras have no meter at all,  plus many great photographers could live with this limitation just fine before us.

Film loading and advance

You have to remove the back plate in order to load the film. This is not too special, but you need to get used to it.

Advancing a film is done by rotating a knob at the top plate instead of having a fast-advance-lever. Again this is not really ergonomic, but you can accept it unless you shooting fast actions.

Winding back the film is a similar experience, but you need to hold a button located at the bottom of the camera. In fact, this is the part I dislike the most about this camera because the rewind knob is very small compared to the force you have to apply. It doesn’t mean you had to force it badly! If you feel something needs to be forced, better not to do it because the film and the camera are both very sensitive instruments.

The lens

According to Camerapedia “The Jupiter-8 (sometimes marked in Cyrillic, ЮПИТЕР-8) is a postwar Soviet copy of the prewar Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2 for the Contax, built with six elements in three groups. It was made in Contax and M39 mounts, both for rangefinder cameras. “

The lens has a big reputation of being sharp, fast, with a good contrast and a nice bokeh (quality of out of focus elements), but it is prone to internal reflections by direct sunlight hitting the lens. I can confirm all these and yes, it is much better if you are having a lens-hood (5€). The lens is a bit soft wide open, but this is not unusual. You just need to stop down a bit and you will get pin sharp results.  On the other hand, the lens has a very pleasing character, which can be revealed best wide open and I think it is great for portraits.

It is true that the quality of your lens highly relies on how lucky you are because the quality control was not the best in that part of the world. Generally speaking the older the lens is the better with the notion that the coated versions are preferable.

The body itself supports a wide variety of lenses. It has the standard Contax bayonet (in fact 2 bayonets inner, outer), so all Contax and Kiev lenses are accepted plus there are Japanese lenses available -Nikon and  Canon also made cameras with this mount, but those might be not fully compatible because of the differences in the film distance.

For lenses different from the standard 50mm focal length you need to use an external viewfinder.

Final words

I am very happy with this camera. It looks great and as you can see in the sample photos it can produce very good results (in my opinion). I sent some photos to the original owner of the camera, and he was also surprised, how well it perform for me.

It is indeed not as easy to use, but it gives you a very unique feeling of using something really special, and you are taking pictures in the same fashion as photographers were doing 60 years ago.

In fact, this is one big thing I really like in film photography. You can use the equipment of the elders, yet as you put a modern film in it, you can achieve state of the art results.

I recommend it to anyone who likes the way around and doesn’t mind to learn the “Contax hold”. It is not a big investment but can give so much fun and works perfectly on the exhibition cabinet as well.


Test shoots


November is certainly not my favorite month, at least not in Hungary. I am not a huge fun of the cold muddy weather, short days and dying nature. Unless it is in a post apocalyptic SCIFI or zombie movie and I am in a warm comfortable place. But I have to admit sometimes this month could give us some really great atmospheres.

In Hungary lots of people have some small piece of field as a hobby garden where they produce vegetables, fruits during the summer or having grape for self produced wine. Unfortunately recently many of these small parcels are being abandoned and filled with weed. This is really a pitty in my opinion since the new generations will completely forget the knowledge and the joy of producing something like this. This is a strange feeling to see such places especially at this part of the year. So I toke the opportunity of having some sunshine and I tried to catch the combination of the abandoned gardens and the slowly dying vegetation of November preparing for the winter.

I have used the Yashica TL Super with the Hansa 35mm f/2.8 lens which came in kit with the Yashica and supposed to be an excellent glass. In fact it is really a nice lens, there is only some vignetting what I could mention. But since I like this effect I add some extra corner darkening and some more retro look. Also this was the first time when I tried the DM Paradise 400 film (first 2 images). I have to say, it is an affordable solution and has great colours when using around sunset. Being a relatively high speed film it is a bit grainy, but in exchange I could use it in interiors quite well. The photo with the gloves is on Fuji superia 200 which is my most used color film for the reason it is the easiest to get here.

The Tree project

A tree for me (and I believe for most of us) is a symbol of a couple of things such as life, constancy, yet cyclic renewal and for some reason wisdom. I have no any tree fetish, before you would think this further…

The crust of an old tree could tell a story of life-times and could be as expressive as a wrinkled portrait of an old man. Therefore I did this experiment of taking portraits of old trees, to see what effect and emotions could such photos trigger.
I also often wonder how it would be like to be a tree. Not completely of course, but would be great to see that limited fraction of space trough that extended window of time with but with human senses of perception. But I guess this will be another project to map this idea into pictures.